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Category Archives: Memoir

Memories, Vignettes, scenes, and stories whose compilation should resemble a book.

Liberace, Ronnie and Me

The first thing Liberace said to me was not “hello”, or “nice job”, “nice show”  …

Ronnie David was managed by Seymour Heller, whose business was funded by the amazing phenom, Liberace.

We, Ronnie and I, traveled to Phoenix from Las Vegas after spending a few weeks living in a friend’s double-wide, writing the show that would replace Phoenix icon Vic Caesar, at Ralph Gaines’ Colony Showroom.

Both opening night shows were sold out. It would be that way as word got out. Ronnie was an incredibly handsome, sublimely talented, Singer and Musician.

We surprised the audience by having Ronnie introduced from the from wings, do 20-25 minutes up front—then, go to the piano and do another 15 minutes of ‘over the top’, finger-breaking, musical show stoppers !

The first show ended with audience still applauding as Liberace, Lee, motioned for me to join his table.

I was not sure how comfortable I would be conversing with this level of celebrity.

Musicians were pretty low on the ‘food chain’ viewed from Lee’s lofty perch. An after-thought; we were easily replaced and forgotten—a totally disposable group.

There were even those at Caesar’s Palace who thought of Frank Sinatra only as a shill !  His bookings were known to inspire the interest and support of high-rollers around the globe. This translated to uncountable millions. Yes, some of it was literally uncountable. The Chicago skim-guy would definitely be in charge in the counting room !

As I approached the table, Lee was on his feet. His arms reached out to pull me in. I was surprised by his strength. He was saying,

“John John; you did an amazing job staging him in this way—having him start, standing and singing. They never expected him to ambush them with his incredible musicianship.”

Ronnie had begun to call me John John, sometime after he formally introduced me as his Musical Director. It was picked up by the Wait staff and stuck for a long time.

I did not have to worry about conversation. Lee carried on without a break. When the subject of Ronnie’s talent came up on display, Lee pulled me gently by the neck, in a little closer.

“He gives me goose bumps on my balls!”

It was said matter-of-factly to me as though we were friends for years. He was so totally comfortable with who he was.

As for a reply from me … you can imagine; nothing came to me, and nothing was expected.

I just hoped my face would not betray the way the synapses were scrambling to make some kind of necessary connections. In a few seconds, I knew this was new ground in the field of the Neurosciences.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Memoir

 

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Take Mike Love, Please

The fame and wealth that often comes to those less talented, ironically, serves to validate their abilities – especially to themselves

There were always a number of hangers – on around the stage and backstage. On this occasion I was one – sort of, left ‘adrift’.

Within a few feet of me was a kindred spirit. There is some incongruity to a beautiful Eurasian goddess – tan, dressed in white, to accent her rich caramel color. Have I said tan – also, set adrift.

It is not easy for me to approach someone like this. Once, in Florida, we were performing at an after-hours club. A midnight start-time.

The clientele was almost all people of the night;  musicians, bartenders, hookers, dealers, addicts.

Often the hookers were drug dealers. Often the bartenders were hookers. Often the…well, you get it.

At that time, I chanced a conversation with a tall hooker / coke abuser. She responded derisively with

“Are you an asshole?”

“I’m the sax player, so yes, I very well could be an asshole.”

My humor was lost in her coke haze and I awkwardly crept away.

“When is the band going on ?” I ventured to the goddess.

I already knew. I was just thinking of having her appear connected.  She seemed grateful for a way to pass the time.

It makes no sense, I thought, for someone like this to be standing alone. There should always be someone near, basking in her Olympian fragrance.  Jesus, I am an asshole !

“They’re scheduled to go at 7. A late start with this promoter incurs a $10,000.00 penalty.”

“I wonder if they have ever been penalized”, I mused to my shoes.

“Maybe when Dennis was still alive”, she guessed.

Dennis really gave the act a bad name. They were just not thought of as respectable with him inviting the audience to come to the hotel rooms to get high ! The other principals could only shudder at this, and what he was likely to say next.

The parade of under-age girls did not help the situation; although, there were some aspects Mike did not mind. He often made careful additions to his ‘book’.

Dennis’ antics also deflected attention, temporarily from Mike’s 6 marriages. There would be one more in the near future.

Alimony to 6 wives would nearly cripple him.  Getting older by the day, he would soon need a back brace, and Chiropractor 24 / 7.

The Eurasian girl would turn out to be his personal ‘masseuse’.

I did not know this at the time of our encounter. We chatted aimlessly, sprinkled with some giggling from her, some wry but amusing, comments from me.

The shadowy third person had sidled up and stood, not greeting us or speaking. He must have seen us from a distance, felt threatened somehow, and decided to make his International presence known to me.

Waiting for us to finish our conversation, was not a courtesy, but a quiet, bullying intimidation.

Why would someone act in this manner. Normally, the person would join the conversation – he knew one of the two intimately, I assume.     And, He knew who I was. Why not move in with a greeting ?

Hey, How goes it ? Or, How Ya doin’ ?  But No…

I got the situation instantly. I’m not an idiot ! Well… I’ve done idiotic things, but I’m not retarded ! Well…I’ve acted retarded, but I’m not a moron ! Well…Please stop me.

This was a duo of super-heros and I was a pair of “brown shoes.” I could not conceive of a universe where the 3 of us was possible for more than a minute. I excused myself.

I think quite a few men would think of themselves as the better choice. If only she would spend some time with me, she would know that.

We could have her children…Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Ares, Hebe. maybe those would be enough.   I drifted off there…

He was, after all, an old man…An old bald guy, slowly growing a paunch on his front, and a hump high on his back.

I was reminded of driving through an upscale Las Vegas neighborhood and seeing this old guy out running the mower on his extensive lawn.

He was iconically unattractive in shorts, with an incredible paunch, no teeth, and bald head in the July, 110º sun !

He worked for years in Vegas, collecting his weekly $25,000. in a brown, paper bag – the better to beat the government – with the aim of owning his signature Country Club.

When he realized his dream, he still charged his bandmates a fee, albeit discounted. Some of the guys had been with him 40 years !

At night, for the act, he had to prepare for hours like the transvestite with a heavy beard, and hairy arms and legs. The Trans-gender guy needed hours to become the woman he imagined.

The big man had to be strapped into a corset like it was the year 1890. He had to be fitted with special teeth and a custom toupee. Only after attendants pried him into his Versace tux did he become Louis Prima.

This is to be the future of the International masseuse renter.

The title of these accounts originated as part of a discussion about groups and singers who, less than competent, end up with a quality – often iconic – product, resulting from proximity to a gifted engineer, producer, $5,000.00 mics, $10,000.00 processors, and etc.

Lou Reed, Rod Stewart, Cher, The Rolling Stones, Grace Slick, The Grateful Dead, Gwen Stefani, Kanye.

Not everyone can be expected to appreciate the performance level of McCartney, Lennon, James Taylor, Sinatra, Ella, Celine Dion, K.D. Laing, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Mel Torme…all with spot on pitch and pristine phrasing.

Or, the creativity of McCartney, Lennon, Billy Strayhorn (Satin Doll, Take the ‘A’ Train, Lush Life, Chelsea Bridge),

Matt Dennis (I Bought You Violets For Your Furs, Why Try To Change Me Now, Angel Eyes),

The Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields (Way you Look tonight, Sunny Side of the Street, Mood for Love, Big Spender, Fine Romance), Hoagy, Irving Berlin, Larry Hart, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller

The Principals, The Beach Boys, did not really ‘hang’ with the band. Oh, they were cordial, and, in the case of Carl – careful to insure the band had everything the Principals had.

The Principals each were limoed, alone, to and from the jobs. God forbid, they should find themselves in a limo with their ‘Founding Friends’.  They had, over the thirty-some years, litigated their brains out ! Hanging, even with each other, was out of the question.

One rare limo ride included Bruce and a number of band guys. Somehow the subject of singers came up and the band boys were having some fun at the expense of the latest Pop “flavor….”

We moved on to Rod Stewart, who we were trying to distinguish as a ’stylist’, not a singer – like Sinatra, Celine Dion, etc.

This is where Bruce became offended. He did not defend Rod as a singer, but as a friend of his. He was, in other words, warning us…not adding to the discussion.

Ironically, Bruce is probably one of the good Beach Boys singers, after Al and Carl. Bruce is responsible for being able to sing some of those beautiful Brian ‘inside’ harmony parts.

Again, a few examples singers and stylists…Stylists: Neil Diamond, Carol King, Cher.

Singers: Andy Williams, K. D. Laing, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Barry Manilow, Streisand, Vic Damone, Tony Bennett, Jo Stafford, Ella, Sarah, etc.

**************

On one occasion I was checking out of the Ritz Carlton after the previous night’s gig. We would be on our way to the next city.

I was paying my room charges;  $7.50 for phone calls. Next to me, Bruce Johnson was settling his charges. $750.00 for phone calls !

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Memoir

 

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I was There the Night Don Rickles said….

Gil and Nikki were about to introduce me to Don Rickles, backstage, behind the Lounge at the Sahara.

I had a quick thought, I’d better be sure of myself. Firm. He’s a nightmare ! Nikki was saying 

“Don, we want you to meet John, who will replace Dave Scott. We know you heard about his passing”

Rickles: “God rest his soul. Hope you are getting through it”.  My hand was in his, now. 

“Nice to meet you, John.” “What’s with the Superman grip?”  “What are you 5’2?”

“I’m 5 seven, Mr Rickles”  “Shutup, I said you’re 5 two” “You’re not foolin’ anyone with that manly grip.”

“Get out there and have a great show.” And he was gone !

“Man, he was like a frickin Winter storm, with no letup.” You just did not know what to do.

Gil put his arm around me. “You’ve just become part of a special group. That happens to include Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., etc. People insulted by Don Rickles. 

He was heartless…Took no prisoners.

Some months later, I was at Caesar’s visiting my friend Dave at the front desk. Suddenly through the entrance came Rickles. Alone and talking to the casino like he just entered his kitchen.

Casino play almost came to a halt as Rickles moved among everyone letting loose torrents of comments from how bad they were playing, to “Does your wife know about this girl?”  “What? She is your wife. Sure” Then a wink and ok sign !

Amazing ! No fear. No fear of being rebuked. So self-assured knowing there is no one to ‘best’ you. And even when someone does come up with a good line, and he is the butt of the joke…he has a way of making it part of the act.

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Memoir

 

Frances and the Unforgettable Fudge

Some of those experiences on Cramer St. were life-changing, certainly memorable…unforgettable. 

Like the girl who visited the Rheels’, in the middle of the block, across the street – Jeannie Farquar. She was a big, overweight girl with pink eyes that constantly dashed back and forth…the first Albino we had ever seen.

My mother befriended her, and in the course of conversation, discovered she was an unusual blood-type, and for that reason, would not have children.

My first thoughts and reaction to this were unkind. I quickly chose to adjust my first impression.

She could get married just like anyone. People found other people attractive for many reasons.

Helene was a trim redhead, like Jeannie, older than me. She would occasionally join us for games. Street touch-football, and others.

She was pretty rough. A Tom-boy…until she got a little older and got a ‘crush’ on Ray Evans – another older person, who sometimes joined us.

My pal from across the street was Jackie Kane. We were inseparable on most days after school and all Summer long.

He and his family were different than mine. They were all a little overweight. Every member of my family was thin. Thinnish.  Except, well…I was 10.  Bob was 8. Ron was 7. Bonnie was one, and Mer wasn’t born yet. Mother and Dad were thin.

I attributed the main difference to how they chewed their food.  Jackie would answer the door endlessly chewing and swishing his food. I figured – if it was me, I would have been done with it on the trip from the table to the front door !

Jean Betts lived next to the Rheels’ with her mom and dad. She had a job and went steady – maybe she was engaged, to Harry in the Army.

Trainee May and Dickie were little kids who lived next to the Betts’…Some of the boys would be forever grateful to Trainee…When she became a ‘big’ girl, she graciously solved a few mysteries regarding the differences between us boys and her.

At one point, we wanted to create a permanent plaque to be placed near the corner of her house to commemorate her contribution to many pleasant Summer evenings.

Of course we had only stupid ideas and did not know how to do anything !

Dottie Murtaugh lived next to Trainee. Dottie was a beautiful little girl with Black hair and eyes. She treated us as though she did not approve. We think this came from her mother. Not from her.

As the years passed on Cramer St., she would become a beautiful teenager attending Woodrow Wilson HS. I often thought of her at the time she should be approaching 30 !

Two of the young girls were only children, and Jean Betts was also an only child.

Frances Smith was the second young girl, although older than Dottie. Frances was about 12 or 13 at the time of the fudge recollection.

She was hurrying down the street toward where I was standing, in front of my house. As she got closer, she started calling my name.

“Johnny, I’ve got something for you.”

Recently, I began to notice subtle changes in Frances. She was starting to wear tighter and shorter shorts. Or, the same shorts, straining to contain more stuff.

Today, she was also wearing a sailor-styled, striped blouse, purposely low-cut she knew would show her new ‘assets.’

I really enjoyed watching her approach. She always had a beautiful smile and seemed genuinely glad to see the person.

I could see she was carrying a tray or serving plate. There was some jiggling, so my focus was all over the place.

Finally, she was standing in front of me. She was taller, so she had to bend a little to show what she was carrying.

As she was bending, she was saying

“How do you like this?”

I was astonished to get an incredible view of the mounds under her blouse – while, at the same eye-level of the mounds, view the tray of the original recipe Hershey’s chocolate fudge.

I had never seen anything like this…before or since.

I have seen separate beautiful sights, but nothing like that.

We were friends for a few years, yet. It was something to watch everyone becoming what they would physically become.

Oddly, some years later, I saw Frances on a bus going to downtown Camden. We greeted each other warmly – Standing in the aisle, as all the seats were taken.

I was a full 10 inches taller than she !

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Memoir

 

Natalie Wood and Me at the Sahara

One might think that sitting through a Don Rickles show would be enough excitement for one night. I was right down front with Gil and Nikki when Rickles approached. This night I was in black slacks, black turtleneck…with an orange Alpaca ‘golf’ sweater…the one with the full sleeves that gathers at the wrist.

Rickles started right away. “Who’s this, Billy Batson ? Let’s see if he’ll change to Captain Marvel. Shazam, Shazam.” He started to gesture wildly !

I  left the lounge at the Sahara, like 500 others. We had just experienced the assault that was Don Rickles.

Leaving the Sahara, you stepped on a sensor and the 2 glass doors swung out, away from you.

I had triggered the sensor, stepped out past the open doors, and realized I’d forgotten something. Instead of continuing out and coming back through the entrance doors, I stopped, and turned, and found my face about 18 inches from Natalie Wood’s beautiful face…She and a girlfriend were tipsy, close in step behind me.

We were stopped cold. I was stunned. Nothing was coming to me. We were frozen as close as lovers. After an incredible pause, she spoke..

“That’s right.”  She did not have to say “It’s me.”

By her look, she was suggesting I was not ‘seeing things’, that this was the high point of my day.

She could tell by my muteness and wide-eyed confusion, I had seen “Rebel Without A Cause”, 25 times.

She was remarkably beautiful. She was Natalie Wood. She moved me aside with one finger, like we were in a movie and she had super powers.

I was still standing on the sensor, holding the doors open, when she turned back to look at me – her face brightly smiling, like she had just enough Chardonnay.

To make sure I saw…she made an exaggerated wink !  Something in me sensed she would turn around and come back to get me…Take me along on her adventure for the evening.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Memoir

 

Play Perfect Blackjack

Obviously, there have been hundreds of books on the subject. Since I’ve read most of them, I felt comfortable designing a process using all the best points – and a few conclusions of my own.

For example; There is a perfect way to play, but not all will want to dedicate the time.  So..Fine.  We won’t get anal about it. We’ll discuss variations…keeping in view – The Perfect Process.

We will include here, some verbatim information from some of the best sources. Credits will appear somewhere within.

This is about playing perfect Blackjack.  Playing the same way every session.

Knowing the perfect play for every hand based on the outcome of millions of hands played.

The Basic Strategy

Basic strategy simply consists of knowing the correct play in each of the 550 possible combinations of hands that can arise at the table, and making that correct play each and every time. In practice, this reduces the house edge over the player to under 1%, and if the player is lucky enough to be playing in a casino with the right rules, basic strategy may even give the player a small advantage.

For any given player hand and dealer up card, there is an optimal strategy: the action that will yield you the most earnings (or least losses) statistically.

Basic Blackjack Strategy dictates the best action for a combination played directly off the top of the shoe, with no knowledge of other dealt cards (i.e. no card counting).

Under these constraints, there are about 300 critical plays to be memorized in Blackjack:

27 two-card player hands times 10 dealer up cards (2 to 9, tens, and ace). The player hands are hard 8 to 16 (9), soft 13 to soft 20 (8), and pairs (10). Hard hands less than 8 are always hit, and you always stand on hard hands over 16.

Using perfect Basic Strategy all the time will minimize the casino’s margin of profit to as low as 0.5%.  Players who don’t use basic strategy are giving up as much as 5 or 10% of their money to the house!

The following Basic Strategy table is for a four deck shoe 

Amazon free book promotion

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This is an unusual book due to the way the unique ’21’ system works with the story-line.
If that doesn’t pique your interest and curiosity—how about the way Parker, the Nevada musician comes in contact with celebrity performers and beautiful showgirls.
The promotion is from February 29, 2016 through March 4.  Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Stealthy-Blackjack-Clandestine-conservative-radar-undetected-ebook/dp/B014B0ZA6S/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Memoir

 

Big Vinnie and the Morning Offering

We were on our feet having Morning prayers when he would finally arrive. At first, Sr. Dorothea was quick with a stern reprimand, but, as the days wore on, she wore down.

“Mr. Presto. Mr. Presto. Mr. Presto.  Oh, fuck it !”

This was winter in NJ. The classroom at CCHS had a coat ‘room’ the length of the back wall. A series of doors, side by side…When you opened one door – they all opened, with the most disruptive clatter !

“Mr. Presto. Mr. Presto!”

I believe that she came to some reconciliation when she realized he was extremely bright, good-intentioned, and, this would not stop.

Among other things, this was for my benefit. I found great pleasure in our morning exchange. He would enter the room and over the drone of the Morning Offering we would exchange our ritual greeting.

“Morning, John.”   “Morning Vince.”

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Memoir

 

Kay Mertz By The Phone Booth

Gloria had approached me a few days before to call my attention to Kay Mertz. Gloria had a good ‘view’ in her job as waitress at Carr’s Corner. I had a crush on Pat Mahoney so everything else was a blur.

I did consider what she said…Kay was definitely ‘mooning’ over me. I started thinking about her. She was a beautiful redhead. Her Camden Catholic HS jumper appeared to be custom tailored, but it was just she was so shapely.

We were all at Carr’s Corner, as we were every day after school. There were two booths and a number of stools at the counter.

The booths were full, as was the custom. There was a lot of chatter. Gloria was delivering an order to a booth when she eased up to me at the counter.

“Be discrete. Look over to the phone booth”

The phone was behind me over my right shoulder. I tried to catch a quick glimpse and caught the gaze of Kay. She really could not look away. I caught her.

We were friends..part of the same gang. We went to all the dances and regularly danced together. We even danced some slow songs where you are holding each other close. We always managed some small talk during this time. That’s what we all did. None of us was a great romancer. This was high school, after all.

Seeing her today was different. She had also caught me.

I did not make a conscious decision. I just slowly got up and moved toward her. She watched as I approached. I could see on her face how she felt.

My hands went first to the top of her hips, then slid up to her waist. I leaned in to whisper but she thought I would kiss her cheek. She had moved her arm up around my shoulders and as I whispered I felt her fingers, gently, at the back of my neck and head.

I joked, softly in her ear, “I seem to be under a spell. It came over me when I looked at you just now.” She had always been kind of shy but was quick to joke back.

“Then it’s working..”

This unusual whispering embrace, in full-view of all, pitched the chattering din to sudden silence…And then, everyone erupted! All at the same time, so it was difficult to make it all out.

“Way to go, you two.”

“We’ve been waiting forever.”

“She’s been waiting forever.“

We were both kind of shy. We couldn’t speak over the exclamations, but she had a beautiful, embarrassed smile.

Kay Mertz

Kay Mertz was a shapely young red-head                                                                                                                                   Her feelings for me had been wide-spread                                                                                                                                       I think of her now                                                                                                                                                                        but my thoughts won’t allow                                                                                                                                                         To imagine a time on her bedspread

Kay Mertz and the Musician

Kay Mertz was a winsome young beauty                                                                                                                                      An attractive and amiable cutie                                                                                                                                                When she reached out to me                                                                                                                                                     I declined don’t you see                                                                                                                                                             I was crazy and stupid and flutey

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Memoir

 

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Ronnie and Johnny’s Las Vegas Adventure

When Ronnie and I were living in his double-wide, working on our show for Phoenix, we spent many nights exploring the Vegas hotels.

We frequented Don The Beachcomber, at the top of the Sahara. The hostess there was a beautiful girl…Alana Hernandez, who was on Ronnie’s ‘list.’

He was not often turned down. I believe she may have been younger than she appeared, and her father, hovering near as Maitre D’, was very protective.

I returned now and then to see if there was any glimmer of interest in me. Alas,no ! She was wonderfully gracious and sociable, but never any flirtations – unusual for girls in this city.

One of these nocturnal adventures took us to the Aladdin Hotel and Rusty Warren’s backstage fantasy world.

Rusty was an off-color comedienne, in the style of Belle Barth. Others like her were Pearl Bailey, Totie Fields, Nancy Austin, etc.
(Belle Barth would get an immediate laugh by saying “The next story is a little risque!”)

These special women were readily accepted in this incarnation of Las Vegas. At some future point, the ‘powers that be’ would try to offer the adjusted perception…Las Vegas was a family destination.

There were definitely fans for these women, although they had not yet found the template to describe what they were doing and how they were doin’ it – not like the men, who seemed to be cut from the same bolt of cloth. They were almost all jewish, and they were called ‘comics’ !

These first girls were definitely trailblazers.

Rusty’s entourage included a chef, Robert – a large, Nubian specimen who, it seems, did not own a shirt.
His colorful purple pants ballooned at the ankles and were cinched at the waist with a gold sash – and, he was not the flamboyant one !

One of the other members of the ‘troupe’ actually had, in addition to a colorful orange and red quiana outfit, yellow step-in, ‘Arabian Nights’ slippers, with curled toes.

It was a Sultan’s tent of white-noise. The swishing was so intense, I was afraid of ear damage.

However, This was an experience for which one should be grateful. Las Vegas at this time was not just the name of a Nevada City – it was a varied Lifestyle Community. Nothing was shocking.

At one period in Las Vegas-time, I had my hair Rolfed ! At another sequence, I had hair to my shoulders.

When Jenny Jackson walked in late to a Don Rickles show, Don immediately quiped, “Get my rifle!”  Nothing was shocking.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2012 in Memoir

 

Gil and Nikki at the Golden Casino in Reno

Previous to the explosion of hotels and casinos in Nevada, casino life was a little different.

For example; shills were commonplace. Casino managers would use shills for a few different reasons…to change the way the cards come out on the Blackjack tables…Some players did not like to play head to head with a dealer. They might request a shill.

I’m not sure there was any statistical logic to any of it. Casino managers were, generally, a superstitious lot.

There was that occasion when a casino Blackjack table had an incredible
winning night. In the course of celebration, the dealer off-handedly attributed it to her wearing blue panties that night.

Immediately, the casino manager required all the female dealers to wear blue panties from then on.

I lobbied vigorously for the ‘position’ of panties checker.

I was a shill at the Golden Casino, in Reno, when Gil and Nikki opened in the Lounge.

They were a wild-blowin’, loungey, horn group with the husband and wife at the front.

Visually, you could hardly take it all in. The bass player, Louie Leos, played Fender bass with one hand while playing lead trumpet!

The Drummer, Johnny Toso, was a Lilliputan ! His aggressive style belied his size…about 4’6”

Gil Casada, was the fiery trombonist. Dick Grey’s sensitive piano was, unbelievably, like Bill Evans.

In front of this groove machine was an unlikely couple. Nikki was the sometimes, eruptive Italian girl, with the husky, Jazz Singer voice.

Gil, half mexican from East LA, whose grandfather shot Billy the Kid – borrowed some zingers from Don Rickles and some very smooth dance moves from Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Brown.

I was near the casino pit, at the shill station, when I heard their ‘Opener’
rip through the casino. A custom, uptempo arrangement of ”This Will Be My Shining Hour”, took everyone by surprise.

This was serious ! The level of musical difficulty and sophistication immediately separated Gil and Nikki and their band, The So and Sos, from the parade of ‘acts’ that were more comfortable with a vanilla version of “I Believe In Music’, ad nauseam.

I was at a Blackjack table when I first said hello to Nikki. She sat to play a few hands while waiting for her next Show.

She looked beautiful walking through the casino in her straight, three quarter-length dress, with gold accessories.

She was a thin girl with short hair, not quite shoulder length. Onstage she and Gil wore matching dark suits – which later would elicit remarks from a customer visiting from another solar system.

These casinos, as all from this solar system knew, were owned and frequented by the Mob members. Nothing was tolerated that would cause a scene or bring attention to someone who might not be with his spouse. Cameras were forbidden. Incidents were forbidden.

The table was empty, except for me. She greeted us warmly. I started before she was able to make a bet.

“I heard you and watched your first show from out here”.

“I saw you in the doorway”, she replied.

“I was almost speechless, except, you know…I’m never speechless.”

She smiled. Actually, she was still smiling from her greeting.

“I don’t know where to start.” I started.

“Your band sounds like Clifford Brown’s. And you, you’re a jazz singer…or, at least, you have a little Julie London, Chris Connor in there”.

She got me right away.

“So…you are not only a musician. You must be good. Certainly knowledgeable. Not many even know Clifford”

“I get by”, I managed.

She made her first bet.

To be continued….

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Memoir